ULI Later Living Conference Q&A with Richard Meier, partner at Argent LLP

By 2025, 20.2% of the UK’s population is expected to be over the age of 65. As it stands, the UK’s housing sector is vastly underprepared for this demographic shift. The ULI Later Living conference will tackle the key issues in the sector, bringing together experts from across the industry to discuss how to manage the UK’s Later Living sector.

Ahead of ULI UK’s Later Living event at Macfarlanes in the City of London, Richard Meier, partner at Argent, tells us that planners and architects need to think more vividly about creating places fit for older people. Meier, who chairs ULI UK’s Residential Council, believes that developers have a crucial role to play in shaping places to help promote inclusion and prevent social isolation among our ageing population.

To see Richard, and many others, at the ULI Later Living conference, get your tickets here.

As a developer, what practical steps have you taken/do you take to create places that work for older people?

First and foremost, we work hard to create places that work for all people. We start with a clear vision for the location that aims to put the existing community first, we then work to create inclusive destinations by considering all aspects of each user’s experience. This involves talking to people and really taking on board what they have to say.

What do you see as the role for planners and architects in considering the needs of older people?

I’d encourage more active planning and policy for an increasingly older demographic. I would also urge both planners and architects to really focus on promoting the integration of older people within new and existing communities. Isolation and loneliness is a major problem and it is only getting worse. As a result of this, everyone in the community loses out, not just the elderly.

One of the biggest challenges we face is a lack of suitable product, giving older people a variety of choice when choosing their housing. There is also a role for architects, developers and stakeholders to create properties that are genuinely desirable and adaptable, so they can be altered over time as needs change.

When we think about ‘senior living’ is there a natural bias that thinks it’s all about cities? If so, is this not wrong, given human nature being in favour of keeping routines and not breaking habits?

Senior living is perhaps most associated with a suburban context, although there are examples of both urban and rural models. Ultimately, a large number of people choose to move within just a couple of miles of their previous residence – there is relatively little migration between different contexts – so there is a need to provide a great offer for all demographics.

Given the reputation issue that property has right now, how do we respond to critics who would suggest this is simply about creating new products to rid old people of their hard-earned savings?

Many people will have their own personal experience of a family member being forced to move out of their home due to accident or ill health, and will know how stressful this is for all concerned. As professionals who shape the built environment and the way it is managed we can all do better to make this a smoother, less stressful experience.

What could Government do (e.g. SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) cut for downsizers, equalize VAT on resi managament, etc) that would have a real effect?

An SDLT break would make a real difference. Many older people would look to relocate if they had a stamp duty reduction. As it stands, high rates of stamp duty are causing many people to borrow money to maintain or improve their property as opposed to downsizing. Cutting this would give people the freedom to move, freeing up houses for families. More active planning and policy to support housing for older people would also be welcome, as in order to tackle the deficit we need to build more houses for elderly people.

The ULI UK Later Living conference will look at how the built environment is responding to increasing life expectancy, and its implications. Through panel discussions, presentations and case studies, the conference will showcase global best practice. We will discuss the changing needs of an aging population and the influence it may have on urban realm from the traditional retirement living sector but also considerations for communities, workplace, infrastructure, policy and investment.

The conference offers an opportunity to hear insights from industry experts on the demographic and economic changes and to discuss innovative solutions.

Register for the Later Living conference here

Author: Freddie Daley, Blackstock PR


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